Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected a deal struck between the government and Jewish settlers which would have delayed the dismantling of the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron until 2015.
In an earlier ruling, the court had ordered the government to demolish the unauthorized settlement by the end of March – less than a week away – because it was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The government appealed, requesting that the demolition be postponed for three and a half years to allow Migron’s 280 settlers to rebuild their homes at another site a few kilometers away.
But in a unanimous ruling Sunday, a panel of three Supreme Court judges rejected the proposed postponement as “unreasonable” and said it “could not be accepted,” although it extended the evacuation deadline until August, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
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Michael Sfard, the lawyer representing the Palestinian landowners, welcomed Sunday’s ruling:
“I hope that the government and the settlers will not try to pull any tricks and will not try to circumvent this important decision, and that the residents of Migron will evacuate the illegal outpost peacefully so that the land will be returned after a decade to its legal owners,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Settler leaders and conservative politicians condemned the ruling, claiming that the court was forcing Israel to endure what would probably be a difficult and potentially violent police eviction of Jewish settler families, who have vowed in the past not to leave their hilltop stronghold, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Several members of the Israeli parliament said they would renew efforts to pass laws retroactively authorizing outposts like Migron while compensating Palestinian landowners with money.
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Israel draws a distinction between outposts like Migron, which was set up without government permission and is therefore considered illegal by the state, and other West Bank settlements that it has authorized but which are considered illegal under international law.
The residents of Migron, which was established in 2001 and is the oldest and largest outpost, say they were encouraged to settle in the West Bank by the Israeli government, according to the Agence France Presse.
“The government that sends these loyal citizens to settle in these settlements then expels them with a Supreme Court decision,” Migron spokesman Itay Hemo said.
Setter leader Shimon Riklin reportedly told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that the evacuation of the outpost “would not pass quietly.”